By PETE WALTON
Officials in Ocean Township are renewing their search for a non-lethal way to reduce the local deer population.
The township asked the state Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife to approve a sterilization program in the effort.
“They sent back our application and there was a lot that was missed in that application several months ago,” Mayor Christopher P. Siciliano said.
At the Township Council’s most recent meeting, the mayor said there are no plans to allow a deer hunt at Joe Palaia Park or elsewhere in Ocean.
Siciliano blasted a recent newspaper ad on the subject as “mean-spirited, counterproductive” and “odious.”
“I was able to get in touch with some of the more reasonable people because there are two ways to approach this,” the mayor said. “If you’re reasonable and you have some good thoughts and cogent ideas, we’re probably going to listen to you. If you’re unreasonable and you have these odious attacks on us, and you take out ads in the paper and accuse us of things we don’t do, we’re probably not going to listen to you.”
Members of the council are planning to meet online with experts on the subject of non-lethal deer control.
“The ad was unnecessary since we were already considering doing something else,” Siciliano said. “All options as far as neutralization and sterilization are on the table.”
The mayor said a bow hunt could be considered if non-lethal methods failed, though he noted that a hunt would be limited to Palaia Park while “there are herds all over town.”
Interim Township Manager Thomas Henshaw said at a previous meeting that he expected the state to deny the use of non-lethal methods and that a hunt might have to take place in order to address the problem.
Henshaw asked residents to contact the Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife to make their opinions known.
“We got rejected on the first application so we’re going to tweak it and see if it gets approved,” Henshaw said. “All these ideas seem great but it’s our understanding that if Fish and Wildlife don’t approve [a non-lethal plan], we may not be able to do it.”
In a non-binding referendum in 2019, voters said by a 4-to-1 margin that something needed to be done about deer overpopulation. By 301 votes out of 5,675 casts, voters favored a non-lethal effort over a combination of lethal and non-lethal methods.
Last week’s meeting was scheduled to be the final one for Henshaw in the interim post. Former Bradley Beach administrator and Monmouth County Democrat chairman David G. Brown II of Long Branch will take over as township manager.
Henshaw has been serving in the post following the departure of Michael F. Muscillo.
“Tom stepped in when we needed him the most,” Mayor Siciliano said. “He really got things moving here as we’ve never seen before.” Siciliano wished Henshaw “a lot of success in whatever he does, even if it’s just fishing, which he loves.”
Councilman David J. Fisher noted the retirement of Chief of Police Steven R. Peters the day before the meeting.
“I just want to congratulate Steve Peters on 34 years,” Fisher said. “He had a nice, long, illustrious career and he’s got a lot to be proud of.”
Police Capt. Michael Sorrentino is in charge of the department until a replacement is found.
The council set June 24 as the date for public hearings on two bond issues. One would fund capital improvements and equipment worth $2.7 million. The other would raise $190,000 for improvements to sidewalks and driveway aprons.
As expected, the council approved a fireworks permit for Aug. 13 during the festival sponsored by Ocean’s Italian American Association. The festival returns to Joe Palaia Park on Aug. 11 and runs through Aug. 15 after a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus.
The council also presented a proclamation to Eagle Scout Drew Faust in recognition of his accomplishment.